United Menlo Park council approves Stanford deal

Also clears way for Beechwood negotiations

Swapping the right to sue for more money, the Menlo Park City Council voted 5-0 to accept Stanford's offer of $3.7 million for traffic mitigation and other improvements related to its planned hospital expansion.

The $3.5 billion project would bring about 1.3 million square feet of new development and more than 2,200 new employees to Palo Alto by 2025. But it could also add an estimated 10,000 new daily car trips to the area, with 51 percent of the traffic passing through Menlo Park, raising concerns on the city's Transportation Commission and council.

The new deal includes $2.4 million with the flexibility to be used for infrastructure and community improvements instead of just traffic solutions, and $290,000 for adaptive traffic signals at the intersection of Middlefield Road with Willow Road and also Ravenswood Avenue.

Finally, Stanford agreed to three payouts instead of a lump sum -- one third after final project approval, and the remaining amounts estimated to arrive in 2013 and 2018, respectively, as triggered by permit issuances.

City Attorney Bill McClure reminded the council at its May 10 meeting that by approving the deal, Menlo Park agreed not to sue over the project's environmental impact report. "If litigated, those monies are off the table," he said.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki thanked the transportation commissioners for the extensive analysis of the document presented to the council last month.

The council also unanimously agreed to accept Habitat for Humanity's withdrawal from a plan to build affordable housing on Terminal Avenue, a decision greeted with cheers from those attending the meeting to support Beechwood School's desire to buy the land to expand its program.

"Study your hearts and think with your heads," Rose Bickerstaff urged the council before the vote. A resident of the Belle Haven neighborhood where the private K-8 school is located, she spoke of the positive impact it has on its students.

Before casting his vote, Mayor Rich Cline called the need for better education immediate, and suggested the city should take a look at consolidating the Ravenswood and Menlo Park City School districts.

"We should not have multiple school districts in this city," he said. "There should be one; our kids should be in the same schools."

The Habitat for Humanity plan would have addressed another of Menlo Park's critical needs -- affordable housing. But the development stalled after nine years of community opposition. In the meantime, Menlo Park spent $998,000 on environmental remediation to prepare the site for housing, while the nonprofit paid $481,590 to buy an adjacent parcel to get access to the building site.

Whether Beechwood will purchase the land remains to be seen, although Tuesday night's action clears the path for negotiations -- the school will need to offer a price the council considers fair market value for the parcel.

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Like this comment
Posted by Janet
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

Not surprised that Menlo Park would do anything to keep affordable housing out. Why would they want anyone to be able to afford to live in Menlo Park?

Like this comment
Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Palo Alto and Menlo Park get compensation from Stanford. The county area of MP, which will be impacted more than the city of MP, gets nothing because its Public Works Dept. did nothing.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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